EXAMPLE INSTRUCTIONS FOR SIMPLE CONVERSION OF A PROTO 2000 OR MODERN ATHEARN LOCOMOTIVE TO PROTO:87 WHEELSETS
It is recommended you read these instructions all the way through first, before starting the conversion
1. Carefully remove the loco body from the chassis and store it in a safe place. Modern plastic bodies such as the Proto2000 range have many very delicate parts and should be kept out of harm's way until the conversion is complete. Place the chassis on the bench upside down and familiarize yourself with the parts. In particular note the plastic wheel set retaining plates on the base of each truck.
2. Don't do anything else yet! For your information, a sample retaining plate is shown separately below so you can see the 4 rectangular slots that hold the plate in place when assembled. These "snap" onto 2 raised mounts on each side of the plastic truck inside frames.
3. It is not necessary to remove the cosmetic outside frames of the trucks. Only do so if you feel that they are at risk of damage.
Now we can begin to remove the retaining plates. I have found personally that a very small jeweller's screwdriver blade or steel probe, levered gently into the side end of the plate, can be used to "pop" the plate side off each mount, one at a time. Do not attempt to bend the plate unduly. The object of the exercise is to lift the just the side of the plate away from the mount just enough to let it "unclip". Exercise caution to avoid injury such as sticking the screwdriver into your fingers or damaging the plate or other parts of the locomotive. Eye protection is also recommended.
Note, there may well be other or better ways of doing this. If in doubt, contact your local hobby shop, or the locomotive manufacturer, for assistance.
4. Once the plates are fully removed, the wheelset assemblies can be lifted out of the truck. If you have large fingers, a pair of tweezers can be used to grip the a wheel for lifting. Note the wheelset assembly includes two square bronze bearings called "hornblocks" and a central plastic gear.
5. Each wheelset should be dissassembled by pulling the wheels out of the central plastic gear. To minimise any damage, this is best done in short stages by twisting each wheel with your fingers. Hold the central gear and one wheel firmly in one hand and twist the other wheel until it moves out of the gear a little. Do not pull it all the way out at once. Turn the wheelset over and repeat with the opposite wheel. Wearing rubber gloves or wrapping the wheels in some cloth may help you get a better grip.
If one one wheel does come out too quickly, it may be difficult to remove the other as the gear is too small to hold tightly enough with just your fingers. Replace the first wheel firmly and try again. Do not use pliers on the plastic gear as you will likely damage it beyond repair.
If this too difficult, you may need to used a gear puller such as the NWSL unit shown, to push the second metal half axle out of the gear.
6. With the original wheels removed, you may now reassemble the wheelsets using the Proto:87 wheels instead. If you want to paint or blacken the shiny outside surface of the new wheels, this should be done before reassembly of the wheelsets. You must not get any paint or solvents on, or near, the plastic gears.
Don't forget to put the hornblocks on the stub axles first! Using the same grip as for disassembly, push each wheel into the gear a little at a time, then turn the wheelset over and repeat for the other wheel. The stub axles on the new wheels are a little longer, so it is more important to align the gear in the center of the two wheels. For an 8 wheel diesel, this can be done by eye. For a 12 wheel diesel, metal shims or feeler gauges should be used to align the wheels centrally within 0.004 in/0.1 mm.
7. The final step of the wheelset asembly is setting the "Back to Back" (BB) distance with an "Ed McCamey" gauge or caliper. Test the setting with the gauge and twist each wheel slightly until the gauge fits perfectly, while keeping the gear central between the wheels.
8. The completed wheelsets may now be replaced in the trucks. The hornblocks will need to be individually aligned with the metal guides in the sideframes, for them to drop fully into place. Again a pair of tweezers is helpful in performing this task.
9. With the wheelsets fully relocated, the plastic retaining plates can be replaced on each truck. Lay them on to top and push them gently down until they "snap" back onto the fixing mounts.
10. The conversion is now complete. Test run the locomotive chassis to make sure all is well, then replace the body.
11. Congratulations! You now have a locomotive simply converted for Proto:87 use on good quality, flat trackage. If you have bumpy track, you may need to add further modifications to incorporate some form of working suspension. Watch the Proto:87 Stores WEB site for future developments in working suspension systems for locomotives.